ComTech: IT Support Stirling

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

I have a problem.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I use Oracle Virtualbox for all my virtualization needs.  It has all the features I require and is very easy to set up and administer.  There is however one slight issue that has reared its head recently with the release of Windows Server 2012 and that is Hyper V.  Hyper V is so intergrated within Windows Server 2012 that it would be stupid not to use it for virtualization in this kind of environment.  And herein lies the problem – I have never used Hyper V and I have no hardware at the moment to run it on.  In short I would have to spend hundreds of pounds purchasing new hardware inorder to learn it and that is not an option at the moment.

Enter stage left Amazon Web Services (AWS).  I have used this service in the past as part of a job interview (5 interviews and still didn’t get the job!!).  I decided to have a second look yesterday to see if I could use an online server to install Hyper V and learn it that way.  For readers who have never used AWS it is an online service from Amazon which allows you to ‘rent’ server space in the cloud.  You only pay for the time that you use rather than a set fee.  This means that if you require extra capacity on your network for a short period you could use AWS rather than invest in new hardware.  Their pricing is not bad either.

There are so many products that are offered it can get a bit confusing.  The one I chose is EC2  (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud) which allows me to use the AWS Free Tier.  As a new user you can sign up to AWS Free Tier and get 750 hours FREE each month for a year (and then standard pricing after that) using the t1.micro instances.  An instance is basically a virtual server and Amazon has some predefined ready for you to use.  In the t1 bracket you can choose from a selection of Linux servers (RedHat, SUSE, Ubuntu etc), Windows based (Server 2012 or 2008 R2) or even Amazon based.

I have chosen both Windows Server 2012 and 2008 R2 (along with Ubuntu in the past) which you connect to using Remote Desktop (Windows) or SSH (Linux) using a key pair. Whatever you do don’t lose the key pair as you will not be able to use the server if you do (trust me I have done this in the past!!).

I still haven’t figured out how you connect further computers to the servers yet or even set static ip addresses (DO NOT CHANGE THE AMAZON ONES OR YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO CONNECT AGAIN) but will figure these out in due course and provide you with details.  As a tool to test out new software (fancy learning Windows Server 2012 anyone?) AWS surely can’t be beaten.

And Hyper V? It turns out that Amazon Web Services use the Xen Hypervisor so I can’t install Hyper V anyway.  Bugger!! Never mind I still get to learn new software along the way.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

Do you actually need that office?

Here is an interesting thought for you.  With mobile technology advancing as fast as it is and the onset of ‘the cloud’ do you still need that office to do your work in?

Now bear with me and I shall explain further.  Lets take the internet first.

If your laptop / tablet / smartphone has wireless capability (and they all do) then you can access the internet from anywhere there is wifi (e.g coffee shop, own house and even MacDonalds if you so wish!!).

Now lets take your documents.

There are now products like Google Apps or Office 365 which allow you to access and work on your documents from anywhere with an internet connection.  You edit your files and save them online.  They also allow multiple people to collaborate on a document at the same time.  All this comes secure too.

If you don’t like the idea of Google Apps or Office 365 then you could go down the online storage route with something like Dropbox.  All your files are stored online and can be downloaded at any time, edited and then uploaded to the internet.  Anyone with access to your Dropbox account is able to see all the documents too.

Then there is email.  How many small companies actually host their own email server? Using the companies I work with as a reference (1-15 employees) not that many which means that their emails are already hosted online.

So with your documents and emails available from anywhere what is there holding you back? Meetings? These can be arranged to take place in a coffee shop in a relaxing atmosphere (I do this all the time).

Maybe you need to access a central piece of business critical software?  I can see how this might become an issue but using products like Amazon Web Services (AWS) you can now host all your critical business software on a virtual server online and only pay for what you use.

What about the need to look professional and have the business address? This is very important however this can be solved by using virtual offices.  You pay a company (usually on a monthly basis) for an address and telephone number in an existing building (if you’re lucky you might even get a receptionist too!!).  In the Stirling area I can recommend Ceteris for this.

I totally understand that depending on the size and nature of your business the ‘No Office’ solution might not be practicable however if you are a small business with less than 5 employees (or even a sole trader) I would seriously think about it because if nothing else you would save on your office rental costs.

Has anyone already done this?

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter




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